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“A functioning group can do anything,” says Piers Bishop in his ebook “Working with humans”

If you ask someone if they like being on their own most of us will answer with “no”. We like to have company, preferable our friends and family and also at the workplace it is nice to have a sociable bunch of colleagues.

“Geese gaggle, crows form Parliaments (why is that surprising) and cats – well – they do their own thing.
Little scamps. But we are a social species and the basic unit of human life is not the individual but the
Group,” explains Piers Bishop in his ebook “Working with humans”.

Teamplayer or lonely wolf?

“A functioning group can do anything, but most groups are hamstrung by something or other,” says Piers. Problems in a group can be:

  • communication failures
  • inadequate resources
  • inappropriate expectations
  • pointless hierarchy

The usual result is that the group splits into smaller groups that do work – but usually for their own ends,
creating friction and minor competitions that don’t generate value for the customer.
Climbing walls, trust falls, bread-making classes and so on don’t usually help – unless the other conditions
for a natural team to emerge are already in place, in which case you won’t need them anyway. Businesses
spend huge amounts on the ‘away-day’ activities, but they have little or no effect performance at work,
and can even turn out to make a team less cohesive.


Are we natural teamplayers?

“The odd thing is, we humans are very good at forming groups, all by ourselves. We do it naturally if the
conditions are right, automatically joining together to do things that meet our joint needs,” says Piers. He believes that something draws us to together in order to solve problems with the support of a group. So if we come together on free terms on our weekends, we should as well be able to form successful team to take on projects at work.

“If you ask the right questions – and follow up on the answers – you can get
the conditions right so your teams will unify and work together, just as they do in their leisure hours,” says Piers.
When teams form naturally, leadership arises automatically and is shared amongst the group members depending on who has the needed skills at the time. Companies have picked up on that and some very large companies are starting to implement new management styles such as Holocracy and Natural Teams. However, those new structures will face problems if they are implemented without understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the human beings, warns Piers.

“Whatever structures you choose, it is possible for your teams to unify and work together. Get it right, and productivity and quality will increase and life will get easier!” says Piers.

Are you happy at work?

Sometimes you can see why people are unhappy at work, but not always. Even people who look fine
might be running below their optimum level of performance, if you but knew it. The trouble is, how do
you know who is in this position, what has caused it, and what can be done to help? It’s the old problem
of the unknown unknowns – but how do you know if you have these – isn’t that an unknown too?

Well, no: unless you are completely sure that every single member of your staff is happy, energised,
engaged, productive, loyal, team-spirited and so on, it is a certainty that there are things going on you don’t
know about, and which are dragging your people – and your productivity – down. Clearly you need to
know about these things, as knowledge is power…. But what would a sustainable, high-satisfaction, high
performance workplace look like?


The perfect work place

There are many possible ways to describe the necessary characteristics but here’s one simple, robust starting point:

  • Everyone would have a clear cognitive connection with their work, the company aims, the customers’ need for the products and the roles and understanding of their team-mates.

  • They would have a full suite of knowledge, skills and other resources needed to do their role as part of the team, so there was no anticipatory anxiety about their work-related behaviours and they felt competent.

  • They would be in a functional social and emotional context where they felt a secure connection with the company and the group and were ok about their place in it, so they actually wanted to come into work.

  • They would be secure, calm and energised, and would feel work was meaningful.

Now that we have heard so much about the perfect work place, check your own working environment. Does your job feel meaningful to you and do you feel like you are contributing to the company’s success? Do you work well with your team mates and do you feel supported by the management?

Check out Piers Bishop’s tips in his ebook “Working with humans” and download it for free from